Friday, January 22, 2010

Flashback Friday #71

The Blizzard of '78

Hi, all. Pull up a chair close to the virtual fireplace, because you'll need it for this post. It deals with a real blizzard that happened when I was in 8th grade. I need everyone to hop into the way back machine and jump a year forward from my last post. Are we there yet?

It was January 26, 1978. We came home from school on Wednesday like all other winter days. I rode the hour or so trip on the bus while my brother, Sir Gattabout, drove his Pinto home. It was snowing, but nothing to write home about. In Ohio, it snows a lot, and you grudging get used to it. I'm still grudging.

This snow was different from any than we ever had. Most snow falls, then gets plowed off the road. Sometimes it drifts, but this was becoming something more than any of us had ever seen. The wind started blowing that night, and blowing hard. It rattled the windows of our house. Quite a storm was kicking up. We children rejoiced because we knew that if it kept up, there would be no school. We lived in a rural district with many back county roads. If the buses couldn't get through, there was no school. The weatherman on TV forecasted winds 50-60 MPH. Guess what, he was right.

Well, it snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed. The wind blew and blew and blew. The roads drifted over. It was coming down so hard and fast that there was no way that the road crews could clear it fast enough. It was snowing and blowing so hard that you couldn't see the house across the street. Transportation, business, industry, and schools were closed statewide for two days with the normal pace of society not returning to the state for five days.

School was called off early in the morning. The Highway Patrol issued a level two travel warning. Not long afterward, the level two rose to a level three. Anyone but emergency personnel on the roadway would be ticketed. Hundreds were stranded on the roads. Many more were stranded where they were. Some folks couldn't leave work. Some couldn't get there.

We were lucky. We were all stuck at home. My parents couldn't get to work, and we had no school. We were all healthy and somewhat warm. Our house was like that of George Bailey's in "It's A Wonderful Life". A drafty ol' house. But unlike many others in Ohio, we still had electricity. Down the road, a tree had blown over, taking out the power lines to the house. The family that lived there was fairly new to the area and didn't ask any of the neighbors for help. They must have figured that power would be restored quickly. They huddled together to keep warm. It wasn't enough. Their infant froze to death during the night. They moved soon after. All total, 51 people died in this blizzard, making it one of the deadliest in Ohio history.

More than 5,000 members of the Ohio National Guard were called out to help with the emergency situation. They worked with heavy equipment clearing roads. They assisted power companies in restoring power. They rescued stranded motorists. They transported doctors & nurses to and from hospitals. Volunteers with snowmobiles and four wheel drive vehicles took medicine to those in need.

You know it was snowing hard when you couldn't even see the dog house in the back yard. I put the dog's food & water in his house, in case he was drifted in. Walking along the hedges made it safe to venture out because they started near the back door and ended near the dog house. However, I didn't walk, I ran. It was nasty out.

In the days following, many of our roads drifted and re-drifted over. My brother told me of a really stupid thing he did while heading to Aunt Shelly's house. He thought it was cool. The snow had drifted across the road in a drift that he says was nearly six feet. He backed his Pinto up, and hit the drift at full speed. Fortunately, it was a light weight snow, and the drift parted like the Red Sea. Had he gotten stuck, he would have been in serious trouble. Did I mention that he did this with a Pinto? Not too bright.

This is a picture of I-70 in Columbus. It is a major freeway that runs through Columbus. If the freeways looked this bad, just imagine how the back roads looked. Here is a picture from nearby Marion County:

Notice that the drifted snow and the plowed snow are almost twice the height of the car?

All kids liked the idea of no school. That is until we got back to school to face the mound of homework that awaited us. We had to get caught back up on our studies. Due to missing a few more days later on, we also had to go to school later in June.

To my Ohio readers, do you remember the blizzard of '78? To all my other readers, have you ever gotten hammered with a big storm?


Theresa said...

Oh, I so clearly remember! I was working at a pharmacy at the time, and because state law mandated that all pharmacies stay open during a state crisis, I was at work for 4 days. We rotated sleeping on two folding cots in a very cold storage area. We ate whatever food could be scrounged from stock. AND we fussed. The worst part, once we were able to leave, my car was frozen to the parking lot. I had to walk home about 1.5 miles, in 4 ft. of snow.

May I never have to live thru that again!

The Ogre said...

Although I wasn't around for the Blizzard, I have heard the stories mentioned here so many times, I could've told you about them almost word for word!!

Jewel said...

Oh yes, I remember THE Blizzard! My mother and I went to make sure that my sister Debbie and her two children were alright because they lived out in the country on top of a hill out in the middle of nowhere. We took groceries to them but being unable to drive up to her house, we somehow walked/climbed through snow up to our hips. (we're short :-/) We made it there just in time, before the road drifted completely shut and were able to make it back home.
I might have missed one day of work at Smeads. They were pretty hardcore about showing up for work no matter what the weather conditions!